Expanding ethanol knowledge in the lab

Pat Corelli of Butler High School helped his chemistry students understand more about ethanol by producing their own, using the Energy and ethanol lessons from the Feed the World website. Corelli attended the Ohio Corn & Wheat-sponsored two-day workshop and gained valuable information to share with his students.

The students were curious about and interested in ethanol before they even went into the lab, Corelli said. “I explained the process of deriving ethanol from corn, the amount of corn crop that is used, the scope of ethanol use, the relative “greenness” of it, and the fact that it is in the cars they are driving—all of this really piqued their interest. When we went into the lab, they had fun with the “gross-ness” of the corn mash and the smell after fermentation. They also responded very favorably to the distillation setup and process.”

These activities in this curriculum touched on multiple objectives, including:

  • accuracy and precision in measurement
  • separation of a mixture by physical means, using a specific physical property
  • boiling point differences due to intermolecular forces between molecules
  • phase change: liquid to vapor and how temperature remains constant

Corelli said he will refer to this experiment again when teaching about types of chemical reactions, because the fermentation was the decomposition of sugar into ethanol and carbon dioxide.